Yerington still in a tough spot in the Northern 3A
Yerington is a town in stagnation, a town possessing an industry magnet as strong as most people’s desire to visit the dentist. When you enter Yerington from Carson City, you can take either a left or right. A left will take you to Las Vegas, a city growing faster than any other in the country. A right takes you into downtown Yerington. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Fernley is a city on rise, both in population and industry. Starbucks almost moved a processing plant there and Amazon.com is already there. Yeah, in Fernley.
Fernley and Yerington. Two Lyon county establishments. Two Lyon County establishments going in different directions. Thank goodness, says Yerington High School football coach Cody Neville.
“I’m an ole’ Montana hick and I told the community that if they get tired of me coaching, all they have to do is put a stop light in town and I’m out of here,” Neville said. “I’ve been here over 10 years and the community hasn’t changed, not one bit. And there’s no sight of anything changing. We’re in a real rural area. Unless there’s a mine or something like that, it’s not a place where businesses are going to move in. In Fernley, there’s railroads and freeways and Amazon.com. There’s none of that in Yerington and nothing like that that’s going to happen out here. And that’s how we like it.”
Atmospherically speaking, yes. But when it comes to the success of Yerington athletics, in particular its football team, no.
Yerington hasn’t made the playoffs since 1997 and hasn’t beaten a Northern 3A team in two years. The Lions went 1-8 two years ago and only a 32-0 win over 2A Incline in the season opener kept them from going winless that year.
Last season, they again went 1-8 with a season-opening win against Incline.
On Aug. 30, they’ll try and keep their season-opening win streak alive against 2A Lovelock because after that, it might be eight more losses. The players aren’t oblivious to all this, either, and neither are the people of Yerington.
“I think the community would like to see us drop to 2A, just so they could see us do a little better,” said quarterback Phil Wilson, who graduated last year. “Sometimes you wish you were down there. Then there are other times, you’re glad you’re not. It’s fun to try and give the Truckees and the Fernleys good games.”
The past few years, Yerington has petitioned the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association for it to be dropped down to 2A. If a 3A school’s enrollment is under 460 students two consecutive years, it automatically drops down to 2A.
During the 2000-2001 school year, Neville said Yerington was under 460 students. Last year, though, it was between 460-480 students and it should be in that range again this year.
The NIAA, Neville says, cited competitive reasons that Yerington wanted to be in the Northern 2A. Yeah, going 2-16 in two years and facing another possible 1-8 season will do that. There are other reasons, as well.
“Depth also becomes a problem,” Neville said. “We got tired kids that are going both ways. When you’re tired, that’s when you get injured. You should be in a conference where it’s the same. If the other guy is going both ways, then there’s not a problem. But when you got tired guys going against guys that are fresh every down, there’s potential for problems there.
“As a coach, I have mixed emotions about that (dropping to the 2A). Some of the bigger schools that have quality programs are expected to win. We’re overlooked sometimes. What bigger statement than walking in as an underdog and beating one of those teams. The challenge is enticing.”
So is watching paint dry.
The courage of Neville and his players can’t be denied and even though the town wants a winner, it remains supportive.
“There’s still a tremendous respect statewide for the town of Yerington with the runs they had in wrestling and football,” Neville said. “So we’ve got that tradition and that’s a nice thing to have. The community is unbelievable in supporting our program. In the three years I’ve been here and dealing with businesses, I’ve never heard the word ‘No.’ And that’s a luxury I bet that not all programs have. That’s not really an obstacle.”
No, but finding a way to make only 459 kids show up on the first day of school the next two years will be. Dave Hart, Fernley’s athletic director and football coach, and one of Neville’s biggest admirers, doesn’t see it happening.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to happen, to be honest with you,” Hart said of Yerington dropping to 2A. “Coach Neville works his butt off. He might work harder than anybody in the league. But I think they’ll always going to be a 3A school from here on out. Their numbers aren’t going to change. And we can’t really afford to lose another team. We only have 13 schools (nine from the north and four in the south). Maybe what they got to take a look at is moving Hug and those schools down with us because we need more schools.”
Great, Yerington’s 1-8 record might become 1-10.